Ukrainian boomerang: it’s time for Lvov to study the experience of Crimea on survival in the “square”
“Burzhuyka” – in apartments, firewood – on balconies
News, which for some reason greatly excited the Ukrainian and Russian media: Andriy Sadovoy, the mayor of Lvov, urged the townspeople to stock up on firewood, as there will definitely be no gas from Russia by winter.
Photo: Mikhail Kovalev
Why? It is difficult to understand the mayor’s logic: either the “broad Ukrainians” in spite of the “Muscovites” will themselves refuse it, or the evil “Muscovites” will no longer give gas to the “broad Ukrainians” – there’s no way to figure it out. But the main thing Sadovoy announced: so that the people of Lviv would not freeze on New Year's Eve, the city authorities have already begun to buy potbelly stoves everywhere.
And well done! far-sighted. Winter will come without gas and electricity, and potbelly stoves – here they are! Throw firewood – here you are immediately warm and light. That is why Sadovoy said that for Ukraine “no one canceled firewood.” And he added: “Citizens should prepare for a situation that is difficult to imagine.”
Difficult? And why? Not enough, apparently, the life experience of the Lviv residents spoiled by Kyiv. Whether it's the Crimeans.
While Crimea was Ukrainian, wintering with a potbelly stove became commonplace for its inhabitants. It was only later, when the peninsula said goodbye to Kyiv, in the “square” they began to compose all sorts of fables about how fabulous life was in their beloved “Ukrainian pearl”, until Russia took it away. In fact, they wintered in the “pearl” in the way that Lvov is now afraid to “imagine”.
Ten or fifteen years ago, arriving in Koktebel in late autumn to my mother-in-law Raisa Vyacheslavovna, I had to observe the following picture: in a three-story apartment building, five hundred meters from the sea, a sooty chimney of a potbelly stove protruded from almost every window, from which gray smoke flowed, enveloping the slender cypresses under the window in a caustic fog.
In those apartments, from the windows of which the pipes did not stick out, as a rule, no one lived – a sure sign for burglars: the owners left to spend the winter with their relatives – in Kyiv, Moscow, Lvov … Crimea became deserted by winter. Remained the most persistent. Indigenous. Like my now deceased mother-in-law.
As a girl, during the war, she, along with her mother and brothers, were brought by train from somewhere near Tambov to the Crimea, when Stalin evicted the Crimean Tatars from there. Some whole families with meager belongings were put in lorries, sent away from their native mountains and steppes. Others with the same miserable belongings and young children were taken from the Russian hinterland and settled in Tatar huts to make Crimea their homeland.
And it became their home. Here, hungry military children in the summer could feed themselves “on grazing.” Already in early spring, every blade of grass and the first berry became food for them. Cherry plum was tied next, without having time to ripen, as it was eaten still green. Then came apples, peaches, nuts, grapes… “That's why we survived,” my mother-in-law always recalled with gratitude the generous Crimean land.
Crimea fed, warmed with the southern sun, rocked in the warm waves of the Black Sea. Tambov, Ryazan, St. Petersburg “dead people” grew stronger, grew, matured, and themselves slowly began to take care of their land-breadwinner.
Later, the families of the Crimean Tatars, evicted during the war, began to return. Everyone was anxious: both those who returned to their old houses, and those who, in the absence of their former owners, had long since settled down in them. Kyiv politicians played on these fears, pushing people head-on. At first, they even succeeded. But over time, somehow everything calmed down and it turned out that there is enough space in Crimea for everyone.
Crimea united. Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Tatars, Greeks, Karaites, Krymchaks – there was just no one here. Everyone lived nearby, spoke Russian, Ukrainian, Tatar, calling themselves Crimeans.
Even in the late 90s and early 2000s, when the Kyiv authorities finally went crazy, and difficult times came for Crimea – there was no gas, heat, water – people did not lose their minds, helping each other to survive.
We lived poor, but friendly, because my mother-in-law would never agree to leave the Crimea for Moscow even for the winter. In the village, the electricity was always turned off, because of which the refrigerator was on its last legs. For several days they did not give water, and therefore in the bathroom there were 60-liter plastic barrels of water by the sink. As soon as the tap started to drip, they had to be urgently filled, as the water could be turned off again at any moment.
Even when they stopped heating in the high-rise buildings of Koktebeli – the Ukrainian authorities insisted that “there is no money” – and the sandstone walls froze through from the cold sea wind, my mother-in-law did not give up. Like all her neighbors, she installed a potbelly stove, bringing a pipe through the window. In her luxurious three-room apartment by Soviet standards, she closed the extra rooms, since the “bourgeois” heat was only enough for one, and she began to go out onto the balcony not as before to admire the sea, but to collect firewood brought and neatly stacked on the balcony by the handy Azim, a Crimean Tatar neighbor.
Stacks of firewood were kept not only on balconies, but also on landings. Nearby were five-liter bottles of drinking water. For her, from time to time they went to the spring, since it was impossible to drink the Dnieper water going to the Crimea through the canal. When pressure finally appeared in the water pipes, a gray sludge with sand and grass burst out of the tap with a crack.
The Crimeans, who remained to spend the winter in their cold apartments, also had to keep an eye on the empty neighboring housing. The mother-in-law on the landing watched the apartments of the Ukrainians who had left for Dnepropetrovsk and Kyiv, but she herself was not going to go anywhere. She was sincerely happy if she didn’t have to run to the village store in the cold, because in the morning Ilyas or Farkhad from the steppe Crimea would bring fresh Tatar products in their old, still Soviet Zhiguli: cheese, milk, meat, cottage cheese, vegetables …
And they really drove right into the courtyard in the morning, woke up the tenants with a beep and opened the trunk loaded with goodies – choose what you like. Loud-voiced neighbors in old coats that smelled of “bourgeois” smoke descended to them, began to barter, discussing the latest news along the way.
Once – it was in 2013, when in Kyiv they were already shouting “who does not jump, that is a Muscovite” – I listened in the courtyard to the conversation of my neighbors and was very surprised: women were discussing the Moscow Kremlin and Duma leadership, calling all Russian politicians after names, adding at the same time in a familiar way: “ours” or “ours”.
I felt sorry for my mother-in-law's girlfriends – they were completely out of touch with reality. We haven’t had a common country for a long time, they live in the Ukrainian Crimea, and from old memory they still consider Russian politicians to be their own.
When their argument became too heated, I could not stand it and intervened:
– Why are you haunted by our Russian leadership? You have your own in Kyiv.
In response, without a shadow of a doubt, it sounded:
– The Russian leadership is also ours.
– Yes, what is yours! I got excited. – It left you back in 1991 and hasn't remembered you since! You are now Ukrainians. In Koktebel you even have a road sign to the main attraction – the Voloshin Museum – and then only in Ukrainian and English: “Voloshin's House” and “Voloshin's house”. Not a word in Russian!
-No, they insisted. – We are not Ukrainians, we are Crimeans.
Farkhad, who had brought groceries and certainly did not look like a Ukrainian, also stuck his head out of the trunk, looked reproachfully at me and said quietly:
– We are Crimeans. We were, we are and we will be.
And my mother-in-law strictly added:
– If something happens in Crimea, Putin will not leave us in trouble!
The neighbors nodded, but I sincerely laughed, finally turning everyone against me.
Then the idea of Russian assistance to the Crimeans seemed so naive and absurd to me that it caused only laughter. Having tried to alleviate the awkwardness, I, from the position of a journalist for a leading Moscow publication, began to explain in detail to these people that their conclusions were not legally and politically justified. And in which case, they should not expect help from Russia. What they so hope for cannot be in principle!
But none of them heard me. Everyone stayed the same.
Only in 2014, when the Crimean spring happened, I realized with great surprise how wrong I was, and how worldly wise these simple women turned out to be, living in a house by the sea with firewood on the balconies, “potbelly stoves” in apartments and pipes in the windows.
Kyiv then tried to avenge their choice – deprived them of electricity, gas, water. He buried the North Crimean Canal, blew up high-rise power lines, through which energy from the Kakhovskaya hydroelectric power station went to the peninsula. But these people still never regretted their choice. Although, already in possession of the long-awaited Russian passports, they again sat without electricity for weeks, every now and then they repaired electrical appliances that could not withstand voltage surges, lit candles and old kerosene lamps in order to somehow light up their home in the evenings.
But every morning, in spite of all the authorities and politicians, the Crimean sun rose over the sea again and again. Ilyas or Farkhad again drove into the yard in a rare Zhiguli, opened the trunk with fresh Tatar products, and the people, as always, went down to the entrance to bargain and gossip about the news and wash the bones now absolutely for their Russian politicians.
Today, Crimeans, I think, have forgotten about the former Ukrainian way of life. Ceilings and walls have long been cleaned from the soot of “bourgeois” houses, electricity, gas, water are in the houses … And I am glad that my mother-in-law survived until the time when she was again able to see her beloved Crimea the same as it was during her youth .
However, now a similar page of history is opening up for the residents of Lviv. The time has come for them to stock up on potbelly stoves, firewood and drinking water, preparing, as the Lviv mayor said, “for a situation that is hard to imagine.”
But I won’t tell them: this is for Crimea! So you need it!
Nobody needs it like that. And if the people of Lviv have to go through what once the Crimeans, let them, even in the most gloomy circumstances, try to remain human beings, helping each other to survive in difficult times.
Although I think it will be more difficult for them to do this – there is no unity. Their mayor, Sadovyi, has already stated that all immigrants from the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine – and there are a lot of them there now – are obliged to switch to the Ukrainian language in Lviv, since the Russian language and culture will be thrown out of the state and public life of Ukraine for at least 50 years. Ek, swung it!
True, when the Kyiv authorities demanded in Koktebel to change the plates with Russian names to Ukrainian ones, renaming the Voloshin's house-museum into “budinok”, they did not even count on 50 years. Forever and ever. And who remembers this now?
There is a Russian proverb “mysteries are never rich”. But the mayor of Lvov, Sadovoy, certainly does not like Russian sayings. And the Polish ones? I think more. The rest of Lviv, apparently, too. Well, good. In that direction, they slowly move. And while they have to study the equipment of bourgeois stoves, it would be nice to ask at the same time how the word “firewood” will be in Polish? They will need it soon. Even faster than it looks. Apparently, as soon as the European neighbors let them know whose language and culture this time they are going to “throw out of state and public life for at least 50 years.”